Piece of Ancient Object Found, but Romans Left No Clues

Experts still are trying to learn the purpose of dodecahedrons
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 8, 2023 6:25 PM CST
Roman Object May Have Been Magical or Just a Calendar
A Roman dodecahedron   (Getty/PaulFleet)

Experts are certain that an amateur archaeologist and his metal detector found a piece of a dodecahedron in northern Belgium, but no one is quite sure what that means. A dodecahedron is a 12-sided Roman object, and this one is probably more than 1,600 years old, Smithsonian Magazine reports. Archaeologists have theories but aren't sure what the Romans used it for, and no written reference that could solve the mystery has been found. Experts at the Gallo-Roman Museum in Belgium suspect that's because the objects were used in magic—sorcery and rituals to predict the future—prohibited by Christianity.

"Punishments were severe," Guido Creemers, a museum curator, told Live Science. "That is possibly why we do not find any written sources." Other theories are that they were calendars, measuring devices, ornamental scepter toppers, weapons, or tools. "But none of them is satisfying," Creemers said. More than 100 dodecahedrons have been found in northern Europe in the past 200 years, many at ancient burial sites. Patrick Schuermans' discovery, thought to be part of a dodecahedron about 2 inches wide, will be displayed at the Gallo-Roman Museum. And experts hope to learn more from continuing searches at the spot where he found it. (More discoveries stories.)

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